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Pros and Cons of Using AI for Your Small Business

Deborah Gallant
April 25, 2024

You’ve heard the promises: AI can create a better work and life balance. You’ll be more efficient. Instead of 16 hour days, you’ll work 12s. But AI can run amok. It could kill your business. It might take over. Everything can go wrong.

The truth? According to Brian Slawin, Regional Director with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, AI has the potential to be an extension of our humanity and intelligence. But it’s not a threat to either. AI can’t take on every task at your business (sorry, early retirement!), and it still needs human guidance to perform effectively. But if you use it right, AI can boost your productivity and output. A lot. 

In our April 2024 Deep Dive, Brian, who’s a former tech exec, offered up plenty of advice for business owners who are ready to use AI but who also want to ensure they don’t fall into its traps. I suggest you watch his entire presentation on using AI for business (it really IS that good). And consult this list of pros and cons of AI tools to help you on your journey.  

How AI can benefit your small business

  • Repeatable accuracy. AI is great at doing the same thing over and over. This applies to everything from manufacturing tasks to communications to data collection and calculations.
  • Decreased operational costs. Greater efficiency of repeatable tasks can result in lower operational costs, too.
  • Increase personalization within digital services and products. AI’s research and analysis skills can help fine-tune personalization. Envision a sales pitch that solves an in-the-moment problem for a key account.
  • Improved decision making. AI is capable of processing large amounts of information quickly to see the big picture and possible outcomes. Consider what it might do for investment and financial decisions.
  • Generate tech, creative, and related assets. This includes everything from routine coding tasks and draft text to building plans and social media posts. Not sure how to bring a creative vision to life? Ask AI for help.

When AI can become a problem for your small businesses

  • Job and client loss. Greater efficiency means fewer hands are needed to do the work. If your business is a provider of repeatable tasks, creative works, etc., that can result in fewer clients.
  • Bias, honesty, truth. AI has been shown to have bias, likely related to the models it was trained on. It also sometimes makes up info and produces works almost identical to copyrighted materials. 
  • Cybersecurity concerns, privacy. Who also values efficiency? Cyberthieves. Hackers can use AI to automate stages of an attack, resulting in more damage in less time. Deep fakes and spoofing, sadly, also benefit.
  • Lack of transparency about decisions. AI isn’t always great at exposing how it arrived at a decision or where it got its information. It’s also susceptible to sharing misinformation as fact.

Tips for making a transition to AI smoother

So what should you do to ensure you get all of the benefits of AI — and avoid the problems? Guide it. Learn to use the tools. Be savvy with your prompts. Set up guardrails and a system of checks and balances, just like you would for a human worker. Be careful, cautious, and intentional. And treat the work it produces as a starting point rather than the be-all, end-all. Your small business can do a lot with AI. Just be sure you’re involved with the process.

READ MORE: 15 AI Tools to Try in Your Small Business

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